Long ago, Declan Burke fled Ireland in the dark of night, started a new life in New York City, and has never looked back - until one morning when he picks up the newspaper and reads the obituary of one Cathal Murphy. He sees at once that the obituary is a coded summary of his own life and probably a thinly veiled death threat. He turns to Halifax lawyer Monty Collins for advice, but when Monty starts to investigate the obit’s allusions to Declan’s IRA past, Declan decides to keep his lips sealed.
But keeping old secrets becomes much more difficult after a burst of gunfire at a family wedding and the appearance of Leo Killeen, the commanding officer of Declan’s former battalion in Dublin. Declan and Monty are confronted by a cast of enigmatic characters, including the owner of a nightclub frequented by the New York mob; a sultry chanteuse; and Burke’s hotheaded son Francis, whose resentment and dubious activities set the family on a road to destruction. The subsequent discovery of a body in a rundown Brooklyn flat forces Declan to confront the suspicion that he has been manipulated all along by an unseen hand.
©2010 Anne Emery (P)2012 Audible, Inc.
"Strong characters and a vivid depiction of Irish American family life make Emery's second mystery . . . as outstanding as her first." (Library Journal)
"Emery tops her vivid story of past political intrigue that could destroy the present with a surprising conclusion." (Publishers Weekly)
Downloaded this immediately after having finished the first in the series. I really liked The Sign of the Cross, but found this installment lacking. First of all, the premise seems a bit implausible -- a man's sons are unnerved by his reaction to an obituary and immediately conclude it hides a death threat, launching into an investigation on their own. If their father's past is as mild as they have thought all along, doesn't the panic seem a bit of a stretch? Secondly, if the man himself knows all the "secrets," but refuses to discuss said secrets with his sons (telling the family to forget it), why would they insist of pursuing the search? (They are basically trying to discover things that their father already knows.) So that's my problem with the plot.
A secondary problem, with the characters themselves, is the womanizing priest...and everyone else's acceptance of this priest's 'character flaw,' even encouraging it. Regardless of your views on Catholic priests and their celibacy vow, it seems a little weird that practically all the characters (most of them Irish Catholics for whom the Church is a key part of their lives) treat this priest's frequent 'pecadillos' as somewhat amusing.
That said, the writing is good. I will probably give the series a third try.
I mentioned in earlier reviews of the two Anne Emery novels how I had stumbled upon this author and started my series experience by listening to Book 5 and then going back to the beginning and reading #1. I am now on #3 after completing The Obit. I must admit that I am surprised that Audible listeners only gave this mystery a 3.8 rating. The story takes place in New York and once again Anne Emery spins a fascinating yarn which makes the listener want to keep going.
First of all I want to underline that Christian Rummel is utterly incredible here. I liked him in the other two books but in The Obit the accents of New York are quite cleverly and convincingly portrayed. Further there seems to be more important secondary characters so Rummel has to cover a wide range of voices.
The second point which i failed to state an earlier review is the humor, especially the Irish humor. Despite the story being about murder, the involvement of the IRA and Father's Burke's father being a murder suspect, there are many funny scenes, scenes when I actually laughed out loud.
I enjoyed this mystery and am presently enjoying The Barrington Street Blues (great title).
Well worth the credits
This is the second Collins/Burke mystery I listened to (Collins the defense attorney, Burke the priest, based in Halifax, Nova Scotia).
This book introduces the reader to Burke's family (which unfortunately means this takes place primarily in New York City, and not in Nova Scotia, which might have provided a little of the Canadian flavor I was hoping to get), and focuses on the life of his father in Ireland and his involvement with the IRA. The references to life in Ireland 50+ years ago plus the presence of the IRA in New York City are the most interesting part of the story.
It's awfully convenient that Monty Collins, a Canadian defense lawyer, just happens to be in New York on vacation the entire several weeks it takes Burke and his family to get to the bottom of the mystery, which relates to his father's past. It also seems almost silly what a huge role Collins plays in solving a crime that is simultaneously being worked on by the NYPD. As with the first book, the relationship between Collins and his ex-wife, Collins and his children, Collins and Burke's whole family, etc. is practically idyllic (and not very believable).
One benefit of not very complex relationships is that it makes this a very easy read -- don't have to think too hard, nor do the emotional heartstrings get pulled enough to be a distraction.
Narrator isn't great, but is serviceable.
Not sure I'll listen to another one, not before testing out some other mystery series anyway.
The plot is at once straightforward and very tricky. It was easy to keep track of what was going on, even as I drove or gardened, but the ending took me completely by surprise (in a good way). Completely unpredictable, to me, but also completely consistent with the story told.
The elder Mr. Burke, Brennan's father, is a complicated character, like Fr. Brennan himself. I knew a crusty old I.R.A. sympathizer in Boston in the 1980s, a complicated man of high moral standards - standards that he had regularly violated in God's name, if you believed his stories. The elder Burke is very much like him, and I found his internal contradictions completely convincing.
Mr. Rummel has a dab touch at voices and accents, to the point I stopped listening to him as a single voice and recognized the characters without thinking "Who is he doing now?" It was impressive that he could voice Bridget, half-seriously coming on to Monty Collins and immediately switch to Monty playing along, without making me twitch. So, maybe Bridey was my favorite character.
No, I liked picking it up in pieces over the course of a few days.
This is a charming series, and for anyone from the East Coast who grew up Irish Catholic, it's a taste of home.
I love to read books set in interesting places or historical settings. I especially love mysteries and thrillers.
I loved Anne Emery's first book, "The Sign of the Cross". This book was just mediocre. My mind wandered frequently, and I couldn't get into the mood to replay sections I missed. I think the main problem for me was that the story line just didn't feel right. I couldn't believe an obituary was a coded and veiled threat against Father Burke's father. Collins and Burke couldn't even determine until late in the story if the threat was recent or decades old (from Declan Burke's days associated with the IRA in Ireland). There were so many characters with complex stories, and it took so long to get to a resolution. I wish the book had been based in Halifax instead of NYC.
I still love the characters and narrator. I will definitely try the next book in the series.
Well, I liked the Collins- Burke duo in book one, and even though Burke was a priest who occasionally fell into carnal habits, one felt a certain amount of understanding and sympathy for him. In this 2nd book he really was SO un-priestly in behaviour and language I felt disappointed. The whole book was littered with the f word - too much and mostly unnecessary. The spiteful wife of Collins was another character who I found to be 'unreal' - spiteful for no apparent reason!
The story was heavily involved in the IRA troubles - but seemed to take a very sympathetic view of murder and mayhem. I also found it rather complicated with many characters that allowed for confusion.
Overall, I do still have a 'sort of' liking for the duo, but in this book my fondness was sorely tested.
I would wait to hear reviews, and check out the synopsis before reading the next in the series.
Narration was good.
"Kept me guessing right to the end!"
This second novel in the Collins-Burke journey deals with the history of Fr Brennan Burke's family, the shadowy Irish Republican past, the hurried flight from the old country to New York, and the past catching up for Brennan's father in a dramatic and almost fatal way. The plot twists are many, the red herrings almost as many, but I never felt lost or that I was being taken on an illogical journey. Anne Emery builds the story of a family with secrets, many of which are still too dangerous to let see the light of day. The real backbone of the story is once again the friendship between Brennan and Monty, though it is strained at times as Monty delves into sensitive family history. As usual with all the Collins-Burke books there is a fair share of humour and I laughed out loud at Leo Killeen's accidental faux pas. Or was it deliberate? As we get to know Leo, that's a distinct possibility! With this second book the reader gets to realise that there is going to be a series of Collins-Burke mysteries, Anne Emery is in no hurry to cram everything between the pages for fear she may start a story she cannot finish. We are being taken on a long journey, some of the threads of which only pick up again in the 6th book, Death at Christie Burke's. There are now 7 books in the series, and each may be read on it's own. Anne Emery is very good at filling in just enough history without rehashing huge chunks from the previous books. But do yourself a favour, to get the best out of the characters, start with the first book Sign of the Cross and work your way through. The books deserve it because they are that good. An author as competent, educated and assured as Anne Emery is hard to find these days. The icing on the cake for all these books is the narration by Christian Rummel. He does a superb job. It's no wonder there are literally dozens of books out there narrated by him, he is awesome.
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